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'Out of touch books push black children away from reading'

GET READING: Author Dreda Say Mitchell wants to see more kids get into books

AS BRITAIN observes World Book Day, a bestselling novelist believes that black children would develop a greater love of reading if there were more books that featured characters they could relate to.

Celebrated author and education consultant, Dreda Say Mitchell, said that she would love to see more children reading, but believes it is difficult to engage them.

The writer from east London explained: “We need to get children believing that reading is one of the best things in the world. Children will be more engaged, and enjoy reading if there are books that touch their lives and mirror them.”

“When I was growing up, there were no books about children growing up on a council estate. Having characters that represent them – whether it’s a book about a black character, or a working class family – will get our children reading.”

However, on World Book Day, celebrated today (Mar 6), children will be encouraged to read a book.

They will also be entitled to receive a World Book Day £1 token which can be exchanged for one of eight specially published books.

But recent literacy statistics suggest that one day of encouragement is just not enough. According to the national curriculum assessments at key stage 2 in England (2012-2013), one in seven children (approximately 75,600) left primary school education unable to read at the required standard.

Rosie White of the children’s reading charity, Beanstalk, said: “Illiteracy in the UK is a persistent problem that has devastating consequences for the futures of our children. The impact on their future prospects can be devastating.”

Statistically, black children show the lowest proportion of pupils achieving the expected level in reading and writing.

Research from the National Literacy Trust, revealed that stage 2 English pupils from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were less likely to be working at Level 4 or above, when compared to young pupils from white, mixed, Asian and Chinese backgrounds.

Although he welcomes World Book Day, MP David Lammy said that it’s important that children are continuously encouraged to read.

He said: “World Book Day is a great initiative to encourage children – and adults – to make time to read. But of course this shouldn’t just be something we think about once a year; reading should be an important part of any child’s life.”

Author Malorie Blackman, currently Children’s Laureate, said: “Reading is the key that opens so many doors.

"It unlocks the imagination, shows us what we can be and encourages all of our children to reach further, aim higher and do better.”

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